I have to say that I consider the majority of my library school experiences to be good ones. I do have a couple of notes or caveats about this categorization. Good is a very difficult word to define. I think that people (and I do include myself in this group) use good to mean a variety of things. In this post, good may mean adequate, average, acceptable, fine, ok, or some other comparable word. I have lumped many experiences into the category. To men, this means that these experiences were as I expected them to be. They were at the very least acceptable. Some might have been better than others also labeled as good, but they were all good experiences. Even more so, they were all positive experiences.
The second point that I want to make is with my claim that the majority of the experiences were good. By majority, I do not mean that over 50% were good. Rather, I mean that of the four categories I am using (excellent, good, bad and ugly) to evaluate my overall experience, more of those experiences fell into the good category than the others. This is by no means scientific. Admittedly, I don’t intend to write about every aspect of my time at library school or to quantify these. My notion that the majority of my experiences were good is a personal judgement.
So on to the good:
The Classes and the Curriculum
Overall, I generally liked the curriculum in SCSU’s MLS program. I did find he four introductory classes to be rather basic. However, when I started the program, I had been working as a professional librarian for over five years. The curriculum in those classes was appropriate for people learning to be a librarian. It centered around customer service, patron-centered service, ethical concerns and library history. I probably should have looked at a program that would have given me credit for work experience. I would have found it more useful to be able to take other classes instead of these. Side Note: most of these classes were not a loss. I did learn things in most of them.
My favorite classes in the program were the management ones. I made a conscious efforts to take as many as I could (which comes to three – Library Management, College and University Libraries and Library Personnel Management) because I know that management is one of my weakest areas even as it is an important component to my current job. Not only were these classes especially helpful, some of the assignments in these classeswere my favorites. Some of these included an in-basket exercise where we had to sort through several emails waiting for a library director on a Monday morning and decide how to deal with them; a statistical analysis of a library using National Center for Education Statistics data to compare data to that of peer libraries; an exercise to write an employee handbook for all employees of a specific type of library; and an assignment to design a performance management system for a library staff. These assignments were all very practical in nature and required thought and attention rather than extensive research. I learned a great deal from these more practical-type assignments.
While I do not think that I can adequately (or impartially) assess the level of technology in the curriculum (due to the fact that technology is my area of expertise in the library field), I did take two technology-related classes: Digital Libraries and Information Architecture. Each class was well worth taking – and very important to learning about and understanding the library landscape. I would have loved to have taken several other technology-related classes, but they did not fit into my schedule.
While there has been some debate about the state of library education, I am overall happy with the curriculum. I think that the practicalities of technology need to be included in greater depth, but I’m not sure how to accomplish that. Personally, I believe that technical competencies are critical to the survival of libraries, but am starting to believe that this is something that may need to be imparted on the job.
Administrative People at SCSU – including Library Staff at the Buley Library
As a distance student, one of the more difficult things to figure out was who to go to when I had a problem. Fortunately, the people that I had to contact to resolve issues or to ask questions were always responsive – and better yet, always gave me the right answers. Specifically, I had a couple of issue for which I had to deal with the people in the Registrar’s Office. In one case, no none I spoke to knew what the problem was. However, one wonderful woman in the Registrar’s Office (who deals with graduate students with the last names starting with M-Z) figured everything out for me.
Also, the women who worked in the MLS office as administrative assistants warrant mention. There were two women who worked in the office during my time at SCSU, and they were so helpful. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have been able to graduate if they hadn’t been willing to help me figure out what I needed to do – especially when applying to the program and when trying to figure out how to actually graduate.
One of the other seemless services was that offered by the Buley Library. While I never had to set foot in the library, I did use their collection and their services. ILL was easy. Using the library’s electronic collections was also easy. I admit that I already knew how to use their proxy server to access their databases (since the library where I work uses the same service via the same integrated library system), but I never had any problems getting to the databases that I needed to use.
The Majority of the Faculty
While I had some awful experiences with some of the professors at SCSU, I took classes with 6 different professors. One of them was excellent – far beyond the others. Three were very good (and yes, they get put in the good). And two? I can’t discuss them quite yet. As a whole, the faculty were intelligent people who cared about the education of their students – who cared about the world of libraries and imparted that care to their students. Faculty, in my opinion, can make or break an education. For a while, I did think that my awful experiences would outweigh the positive ones. However, that was not the case. I do think that some of the faculty had problems or issues teaching in the online environment, but that may have more to do with the issues surrounding distance education itself rather than specific deficits on their part. The bottom line is that I am happy with the majority of professors with whom I studied.
So, the good was good. And overall, I would say that my education at SCSU was a good one – and I can live with that!